Breaking! Another Possible Oil Spill Off The Coast Of Huntington Beach, CA; Three Companies Indicted For The Oil Spill In October

Photos from Huntington Beach Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard Southern California, Twitter

An oil slick approximately 20 yards by 150 yards was spotted on Wednesday off of Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach, CA. At this time, it is unclear if the current event is related to the tragic oil spill that occurred in October off the coast of Huntington Beach.

The U.S. Coast Guard of Southern California stated on its Twitter account that while the source of the oil remains unknown, cleanup crews remain on standby and oil spill response vessels are on-water to recover any product.

WAN talked with Huntington Beach Police Department spokesperson Jennifer Carey who confirmed that the city is also monitoring the situation and prepared to assist with cleanup efforts if necessary.

“We are waiting for an update from the U.S. Coast Guard,” Carey told WAN. “Our hope is that the oil has not made contact with our shore and that it will not affect our coastline or Bolsa Chica and Huntington Beach wetlands.”

Ironically, the latest oil spill scare came on the same day that a federal grand jury charged the three companies that own and operate the 17-mile-long San Pedro Bay Pipeline that broke in early October with one misdemeanor count of negligent discharge of oil.

As per a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice, Amplify Energy Corp., along with its subsidiaries Beta Operating Co. LLC  and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Co., were accused of negligence “in at least six ways, including failing to properly respond to eight separate leak alarms over the span of more than 13 hours, and improperly restarting the pipeline that had been shut down following the leak alarms.”

The pipeline, which was used to transfer crude oil from several offshore facilities to a processing plant in Long Beach, began leaking on the afternoon of October 1st, but the defendants allegedly continued to operate the damaged pipeline, on and off, until the next morning. As a result of the allegedly negligent conduct, what is estimated to be about 25,000 gallons of crude oil were discharged from a point approximately 4.7 miles west of Huntington Beach from a crack in the 16-inch pipeline.

The indictment alleges that the defendants acted negligently by:

  • Failing to properly respond to eight alarms from an automated leak detection system that were activated between 4:10 p.m. on October 1st until the final alarm at 5:28 a.m. the following day;

  • Shutting down and then restarting the pipeline five times after the first five alarms were triggered, resulting in oil flowing through the damaged pipeline for a cumulative period of more than three hours;

  • Despite the sixth and seventh alarms, pumping oil for three additional hours late on October 1st into the early morning hours of October 2nd while a manual leak test was performed;

  • Despite the eighth alarm, operating the pipeline for nearly one hour in the predawn hours of October 2nd after a boat they contacted failed to notice discharged oil in the middle of the night;

  • Operating the pipeline with crewmembers who had not been sufficiently trained on the automated leak detection system;

  • Operating the pipeline with an understaffed and fatigued crew.

For a corporate defendant, the charge of negligently discharging oil carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years of probation, as well as fines that potentially could total millions of dollars.

The Coast Guard Investigative Service; the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division; and the FBI are investigating the oil leak that occurred in Huntington Beach in October.

WAN will post updates as more information becomes available.

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